Monday, May 28, 2007

Food Labeling Innuendos

Your Doritos might reduce heart disease soon. At least that's what Frito-Lay wants you to think.

In January, 2007, Frito-Lay petitioned the FDA for permission to label its foods processed with reduced saturated fats that says their chips may reduce heart disease. While on the surface, one might think that sounds reasonable, the data to support this claim does not exist. Instead, the FDA said that such labeling claims can be inferred:
Under section 403(r)(3)(C) (21 U.S.C. § 343(r)(3)(C)) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act), a manufacturer may submit to FDA a notification of a health claim based on an authoritative statement from an appropriate scientific body of the United States Government or the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) or any of its subdivisions.
It seems the basis for Frito Lay's request lies in data from 1989:
The following statements from the 1989 NAS report titled Diet and Health: Implications for Reducing Chronic Disease Risk listed in the January 24 notification are considered authoritative statements.

"Clinical and animal studies provide firm evidence that omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids when substituted for saturated fatty acids result in a lowering of serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and usually also some lowering of HDL cholesterol levels."

"Clinical studies indicate that substitution of monounsaturated for saturated fatty acids results in a reduction of serum total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol without a reduction in HDL cholesterol."
Now, while I respect the fact that lowering LDL and raising HDL can reduce the risk of heart disease, can we extrapolate these findings from older lipid studies to a direct heart disease risk-reduction by the consumption of chips and products manufactured by low saturated fat oils? Or might carbohydrate bolus consumed by eating these "heart-healthy" chips add to the metabolic syndrome epidemic and near runaway incidence of childhood diabetes in America?

Or worse still, could these food labels be detrimental to our public's health, as questioned in New Zealand, by providing an excuse for people eating more of these products because they are labeled "heart healthy?" One only needs to look at New Zealand's "heart healthy" promotion for lamb and beef that carry a "National Heart Foundation" seal to see the potential conflicts of interest inherent in such food labeling.

I guess this is what we get when the guys asking for permission are paying the FDA's bills: industry-sponsored health claims that coerce and misinform.


Addendum 29 May 2007 08:30: More from Weighty Matters

1 comment:

Sevenbeads said...

Does this mean that the Texas favorite "Frito Pie" could be labeled a health food? Yes! And I'm the daughter of Joan Fontaine.